Directed by Tina Gordon. Starring Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Marsai Martin, Justin Hartley.
The Plot: Jordan (Regina Hall) is a self-made businesswoman who runs her own tech company. Always the over-achiever, she’s the boss and makes sure that everyone knows it, especially her long-suffering assistant April (Issa Rae). When Jordan is rude to a little girl, she casts a spell on Jordan and wishes she were little. Jordan wakes up the next morning in her tweenie self (Marsai Martin), the hopeful girl that she long since put in a box. She enlists the help of an amazed April to run her company while she deals with school, bossing schoolkids about and flirting inappropriately with her teacher. It’s time for Jordan to wake up and realise how the world views her…
The Verdict: Body-swap comedies were all the rage in the 1980s. Big was the best of them and it’s very much an influence in new comedy Little. It’s the brainchild of an actual child, now 14-year-old star Marsai Martin who also gets an executive producer credit (the adult Jordan would no doubt approve). What if Big was reversed, not just in gender, but in age? Little is not a remake of Big though. It follows its own story and mixes in some of the time-honoured trial-by-fire life lessons found in the likes of Groundhog Day. It’s derivative of better films, but director and co-writer Tina Gordon manages to hold it all together and deliver a bellyful of big laughs from its rib-tickling concept.
Gordon’s script with Tracy Oliver does its hardest early on to make Jordan the boss from hell. She’s so obnoxious that she shoves a staff member off a comfy chair and ruins a tasty apple for another. She’s a tyrant, but she’s also over-the-top and badly in need of a reality check. The switch to her younger self is almost a relief until you realise she’s still there, but now has to face kid problems. While Hall does a good job at being the adult Jordan, the film really hits its groove when Martin comes in. It’s like watching Jodie Foster in Bugsy Malone – is she an adult playing a kid playing an adult? She’s wise beyond her young years, so the transition between the two actors is relatively seamless.
Martin pretty much leaves every other actor flailing in the dust behind her. She’s that good at playing the sassy tween that you miss her when she isn’t around. And yet, she also retains that child-like twinkle in her eye. A tricky balance, but she pulls it off with easy charm. It’s Jordan allright, but now filtered through the eyes of someone less cynical about a world that has nothing to offer her. Gordon mines the comedic qualities of Martin and the put-upon Rae to maximum effect, delivering some good gags along the way.
Admittedly, the ‘magic trick’ in the film is a weak and unconvincing plot point – a far cry from the mysterious Zoltar machine in Big. The film ends on an entirely conventional note too, the kind that has been done to death in Hollywood films. If only the script had been a bit sharper and gone with something that marked it out as being more sassy and risqué – hinted at earlier in the film. The film coasts heavily on the charms of Martin, but she wins out in the end to make Little a big laugh.